Johnny Depp’s $50 million libel case against his estranged wife, Amber Heard, entered its 12th day of testimony in a Virginia courtroom on Monday, a day after Heard allegedly fired his team of public relations.
Jurors heard that after Heard made domestic violence allegations against Depp in 2016, his film work and earnings dropped dramatically.
Depp’s agent Jack Whigham said that in 2017 the actor had made three studio films and two independent films with a fee of around $35 million, but in 2018 he had no directed only two independent films for a $4 million fee.
Whigham said that for one such film, Minamata, funding became “fragile” and Depp was forced to lower his fees “to save the film”.
Disney, which had scheduled Depp for a sixth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, was “going in a different direction,” Whigham said. Depp, who was to receive $23 million plus a profit share, was to be replaced by Margot Robbie.
“I failed to save Pirates for Johnny,” Whigham said.
“After the op-ed, it was impossible to get her a studio film,” Whigham said, referring to the Washington Post article at the center of the libel action, in which Heard said she was a survivor of domestic and sexual assault.
“As far as Johnny was concerned, it was abysmal,” Whigham said.
Under cross-examination, Whigham said the article had become “a death knell, a catastrophic thing for Mr. Depp in the Hollywood community.” Depp hadn’t done a movie, he said, since July 2020.
Richard Marks, a film industry negotiator whose job he said is to help clients “go yes” and secure a successful deal, said Heard’s allegations against Depp have ultimately created a “cancellation situation” for Depp.
Marks said the studios have always put up with the idiosyncratic behavior of its stars.
“Johnny Depp has the reputation of being Johnny Depp. When you hire Johnny Depp, you get everything Johnny Depp – and that includes delay. Hollywood, he said, “only supports ‘diva and drugs’ when the money is involved, the big stars are involved and the art is involved.”
But the charges brought by Heard rendered him effectively unemployable. “Over the past five years, especially with the #MeToo movement, you wouldn’t want to hire an actor who had been ‘canceled’. Right now, the pinnacle of negativity in Hollywood is accused of domestic or sexual abuse,” Marks said.
“You wouldn’t want to pay to hire an actor followed by negativity. You wouldn’t want to pay to bring your brand down,” he added.
Earlier, the court also heard testimony from Travis McGivern, a member of Depp’s security team who often worked night shifts.
The choreography of arguments at Depp and Heard’s five-penthouse complex in Los Angeles has again come under scrutiny, as McGivern testified he saw Heard punch Depp in the face after he and the nurse from Depp were called at 4 a.m. one day in April 2016.
McGivern said Heard threw a can of Red Bull at Depp from a second tier, hitting him in the back.
“She threw a bag or a purse, she spat at him, a lot of verbal vitriol,” McGivern said.
“Usually it was Ms. Heard who directed her feelings towards Mr. Depp,” he added, as the frequency of the arguments increased to “several times a week.”
McGivern said Depp never physically responded. As the verbal insults continued, Depp “gave everything he got,” he said.
The abuse, he said, could include “anything and everything … the f-word is my favorite word but it was thrown around to the point where I was uncomfortable”.
On the night in question, McGivern said, Heard left and returned with her sister, Whitney, as he tried to get Depp out. By then, he said, Depp had tossed shelves of Heard’s clothes and accessories onto a third-floor balcony.
McGivern said Heard and Depp were “agitated”. Typically, he said, Depp collected framed letters from Hunter S Thompson or Marlon Brando before returning to his home in North Sweetzer, once owned by Bela Lugosi.
McGivern said he was standing between Depp and Heard when “out of the corner of my eye I saw a fist and an arm go over my right shoulder. I heard and saw a clenched fist touch Mr. Depp on the left side of his face”.
McGivern testified that it was Heard who threw the punch and that Depp had a look of “shock” on his face. The actor had a “nice little minnow,” he said.
Depp’s lawyers will complete their presentation on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Heard is believed to speak in his defense of Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit and counter with his own $100 million nuisance lawsuit.
Heard reportedly fired his team at Precision Strategies on Sunday. She would have hired another company, Shane Communications. A source told the New York Post about the change while another said the Aquaman The actor was “frustrated that his story was not being told effectively.”